‘Tell us a joke!’ – it’s the heckle stand up comedians dread though for alleged comedienne Gina Yashere it soon becomes an audience plea before they’re finally begging for mercy. But it’s also the demand from the armed criminal Eagle (Daniel Wu) to police captain Zhong Cheng  (Wong Qianyuan) on his first day  since transferring to the province a cop taken hostage in the gang’s getaway van. Instead of a sharp one liner Cheng takes a bite out of Eagle’s ear like some oriental Mike Tyson tribute act before he’s hurled out of the back of the van. It’s a clever move as it becomes eagle’s defining feature when Cheng heads up the team who will hunt him down.

Set in China in the early 1990’s Caught in Time is loosely based on Zhang Jun a murderous robber who killed 23 people in a robbery spree that lasted several years before he was finally caught and executed and the film has their series of robberies dynamically shot, as are many of his victims, and there’s a clear influence from THAT shoot out in Michael Mann’s epic crime masterpiece ‘Heat’ as well as many of the Hong Kong thrillers from the likes of John Woo and a sprinkling of wire work in there too. With the heat just around the corner the gang soon widen their net across China and its Eagle’s munched on ear being the identifying characteristic as well as his mullet haircut, one of the worst committed to celluloid that presumably prompted the robberies in an effort to fund a decent haircut if nothing else, that will prove his undoing.

But whilst the action is capably handled the plotting in writer-director Ho-Leung Lau has significant plot holes and some illogical steps in the investigation. Caught in Time is a rare type of Chinese thriller with a style more readily associated with those of Hong Kong but there a few obvious intrusions by the Chinese film authorities – all the cops are good guys, Cheung rips down dissenting fly posters and a final caption claiming that China clamped down on firearms making the country one of the safest places in the World – a fact which the inhabitants of Wuhan might dispute . But Caught in Time is a dazzling and dynamic entry in Far East action cinema

Here’s the trailer……..

Signature Entertainment presents Caught in Time on Digital Platforms 7th February 2022


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